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Over the last few months there have been some really exciting changes happening in the website security world related to encryption. Something which now allows businesses of all shapes and sizes to take encryption seriously without the larger investment previously needed. Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s take a look at what exactly SSL and HTTPS actually is and why it is important.

Google is to Flag Non-Secure Websites

Already SSL certificates are a factor in Google’s search algorithm, meaning that businesses using HTTPS are more prominent in Google’s search results when customers are searching. If this wasn’t enough for you to implement an SSL certificate, then eventually Google will be treating all websites like this that are not using HTTPS;

google-to-highlight-non-secure-websites-longer-term

As a customer, what would you think if this warning came up when you were browsing your favourite websites? You would soon leave the website and begin to distrust the brand, right? Then the same is going through your customer’s minds too. Starting January 2016 Google will begin to flag insecure websites as not secure as can be seen below;

google-to-highlight-non-secure-websites-in-january-2016

Now is the time to implement SSL on your websites to avoid the mad rush when Google turns this feature on. Read all about the finer details over on Google’s security blog.

 

Importance of SSL and HTTPS

Getting a little bit technical, SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer which turns the standard HTTP protocol used to access all websites on the internet into a secure connection. What this means in practice is that the connection between yourself typing www.contradodigital.com into the web browser and the web server is encrypted, meaning that no-one can listen in to what data is being sent/retrieved as you go about your day.

Take WordPress as a prime example, whenever you login to your WordPress website, if you are still using HTTP and not HTTPS then anyone listening in on the network can read your username and password in plain text, then use this data to hack into your website and do damage. So if you’re in a café or any other public place to access your website over HTTP, then it is relatively straight forward for people who know what they are doing to see your details. The same is true when you enter a username or password onto any other website on the internet, if they are using HTTP instead of HTTPS, then your password becomes visible to the world if someone is listening in on that network. SSL resolves these issues.

Anyone who is using any kind of login system on their website, whether this is simply for logging in administrators into your content management system, or running an ecommerce website, you should be using SSL. Previously an SSL certificate would have cost anywhere between £150 and £550 just for the certificate itself, plus the added cost of migrating your website from HTTP to HTTPS which can be a considerable cost in itself.

From a user perspective, implementing SSL simply means taking your website from HTTP;

 

HTTP Non Secure Website

 

To HTTPS;

 

HTTPS Secure Website Using SSL Certificate

 

End to end encryption to secure your website.

 

Free SSL Certificates

Over recent months we’ve been experimenting with Let’s Encrypt, the new free certificate authority, the guys who generate the SSL certificates. Let’s Encrypt is backed by the likes of Facebook, Google, Cisco, Mozilla, Akamai, Automattic, Shopify, Sucuri, Hewlett Packard and many more. When Let’s Encrypt was first launched in April 2016, it was still very much in its early stages and quite buggy on a lot of platforms. Thankfully since then, it has become a lot easier to work with and hence is now something we’re recommending all businesses should take a look at for their own websites.

 

Let's Encrypt Logo

 

Practicalities

While Let’s Encrypt does bring free SSL certificates to everyone, it’s not quite as straight forward as just clicking a button and you’re good to go. As with all website and web server technologies, there are many moving parts with endless different setups and configurations. While the SSL certificates their self are free, implementing the initial Let’s Encrypt setup on your web server can be time consuming, or even in some cases, not even possible at the moment. Likewise, once you have claimed your free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt, you will likely need to implement various bits of website work to ensure SSL works correctly throughout the website.

Thankfully, we’ve got this town to a tee. Anyone hosting their website with us and running WordPress, we can implement this in no time at all, so get in touch so we can implement your free SSL certificate with minimal investments associated with the implementation of this. For anyone else, drop us an email anyway and we can review your current setup to see if it is capable of implementing the free SSL certificates from Let’s Encrypt.

For anyone brave enough to have a go their self, here are a few handy resources on some of the technical aspects in the background;

But the likelihood is that you’re not going to be able to implement this yourself, nor should you try if you aren’t competent as you can do some serious damage if you do things wrong. If your current web hosting partner or website team isn’t capable of implementing this or the technology isn’t up to scratch, then it’s probably time to review your current web hosting options;

 

Update – May 2017

As mentioned when initially publishing this blog post, companies need to act now to avoid losing potential customers.

Google Will Warn Potential Customers Not To Contact You in October….Act Now…

Google has been encouraging website owners to move towards a secure and encrypted internet for over 12 months now and they believe they have given website owners enough time to implement encryption technologies on their website to use SSL, i.e. when people view your website they view https://www.contradodigital.com rather than http://www.contradodigital.com. This means that the connection is encrypted and your customers data is secure when they are submitting things like credit card information or personal information on contact forms.

Unfortunately many websites are still not taking cyber security seriously which is why Google is taking the next step in October. In essence what this change will mean is that if you have not implemented an SSL certificate on your website by this time, anyone wanting to contact you through the contact form on your website using Google Chrome (the most popular web browser in use…) will be told that your website is ‘Not Secure’ which will put potential customers off from entering their details and contacting you. You need to act now to prevent your website being listed as Not Secure to your customers.

Here’s how your Contact Us page will look when people are about to fill out their details. Ask yourself, would you fill in a contact form on a website if you saw this warning message?

Here is an animation of what your contact form would do when people start entering in information;

What you need to do…

If you haven’t implemented an SSL certificate on your website to date, then you need to do so as soon as possible. This can be a relatively straight forward thing to do, or something a little more complex which depends on the technology you’re using in the background. Don’t worry about that though as we have implemented a lot of these for businesses over the last few years across a range of technologies.

Even better, SSL certificates are now FREE which is great as they would previously have set you back several hundred pounds for the certificate alone. So simply drop me an email directly and we can schedule some time in to implement this for you, michael.cropper@contradodigital.com

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Michael Cropper

Founder & Managing Director at Contrado Digital Ltd
Michael founded Contrado Digital in 2013. He has experience working with national and multi-national brands in a wide range of industries, helping them achieve awesome results. Michael regularly speaks at local universities and industry events while keeping up with the latest trends in the digital industry.